Wednesday, August 20, 2008

About the scent of the koalas

Marie, the caretaker explained where the scent of koala came from.

If you ask me what the most important thing is in communicating cross-culturally, I would say to pay attention to the cues of non-verbal messages. You see, here Marie was probably becoming a bit annoyed by having to teach people how to hold the koala (esp. with ignorant foreign tourists) as it could be repetitive and boring. I can imagine how difficult it can be to deal with a line of tourists who come here just to hold the animal for once and have their pictures taken.

So I decided to approach her during the break and asked if she would be willing to explain where the scent of the koala came from to my students in Taiwan. Immediately she showed me this beautiful smile and agreed to do that with my camera.

People like to be respected and it is universal. Even in a situation where we don't speak the language of a person we run into, ackowledging the person's existence with a genuine smile and eye contact can be helpful. The power of empathy breaks cultural boundaries.